Our Collection

Irene Sharaff (top); Mai Mai Sze (bottom)
Irene Sharaff (top); Mai Mai Sze (bottom)

Sharaff-Sze Collection

In 1993, the Library received a bequest of nearly 800 books from the estates of Irene Sharaff and her partner, Mai-Mai Sze. The collection reflects the interests of these New York women, both of whom were active in the worlds of fashion and drama.

Irene Sharaff (1910-1993) was an award-winning costume designer honored with both Academy and Tony awards for her work on the film and stage productions of West Side Story, Cleopatra, The King and I, and An American in Paris. She also worked as a set and costume designer for the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, the New York City Ballet, and the Royal Ballet in London. Her partner Mai Mai Sze was the daughter of a Chinese diplomat who grew up in Britain and Washington D.C. She also found success in the arts in New York City, working first as a landscape painter and later as a writer, actress, and model. Her translation of the 15th-century Chinese text, The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, published as The Tao of Painting, is still in use today by students of Chinese painting.

The Sharaff-Sze collection focuses on the arts and humanities: painting, literature, drama, eastern religions, and poetry. Many of the books are warmly inscribed by their authors to Sharaff and Sze. The collection as a whole thus forms a web linking these women and their social, cultural, and intellectual circles with the books they read, shared, and surely discussed.

Click here to browse the collection or search Sharaff-Sze Collection (New York Society Library) in the author field.

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